You probably know all about The Government Art Collection (GAC), that contains some 13,000 paintings and other works of art.
The majority of these British based artworks have been paid for by taxpayers. Others have been added to the collection by gift or by bequest.
There’s no point in clicking this image to enlarge it. That’s as big as it gets on the GAC site, which declares:
Works from the Collection are displayed in the offices and reception rooms of several hundred major British Government buildings in the United Kingdom and around the world. In London these include 10 Downing Street and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Abroad they include the official Residences and Embassy buildings in locations as diverse as Paris, Washington, Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, Pretoria, Canberra and New Delhi.
If you should actually want to study any of the artworks, you can get an idea of the problem facing you laid out in the quote above. It highlights the tricky bit of being in the same room as the artwork which is so, so necessary for the full appreciation of paintings. And that sums up the most awkward facet of the GAC. Yes, you’ve probably paid for them, but it’s going to be devilish difficult for you to see any of the objets d’art, except for a peek at whatever leftovers are hanging around on one of the London Open House events, or the fortnightly evening visits.
It’s a shame, as noted above, that the GAC website doesn’t compensate for this lack of accessibility by at least putting up some half decent pictures on its website. Unfortunately, a very parsimonious 400 pixel maximum rule applies to the display of the pictures, and what seems to be a large part of the collection is not represented by a picture online at all. Great.
Get ready to admire 200,000 more paintings you didn’t know you owned…
Avril Burleigh by C.H.H Burleigh. Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
(Please click to enlarge all the remaining thumbnail images in this post)
So it’s great news that a recently formed arts organisation is taking a series of steps to provide easier access to another artistic treasure trove, comprising a couple of hundred thousand paintings that have mostly been paid for by the public, and are held by museums, fire brigades, schools, police headquarters, hospitals, town halls and so on up and down the country.
Step forward The Public Catalogue Foundation.
Paula Rego: The Artist In Her Studio 1993 Leeds Museums & Galleries
The foundation has started to document every single piece of art held by public bodies throughout Great Britain on a county by county basis. Each county will have a bound volume that lists its own treasures.
This massive collection bears a striking resemblance to the research and publications of Nikolaus Pevsner, except that it deals with pictures rather than buildings.
The Volume for Cambridgeshire – The Fitzwilliam Museum
The difference with the GAC is that anyone will be able to inspect the 200,000 paintings, and the relevant county catalogue will point art lovers to where those pictures are hung.
Click to enlarge this catalogue entry for Edward Louis Lawrenson – 1868 – 1940, who has 2 paintings hanging somewhere in East Sussex in the South of England.
You can see one of them below.
Edward Louis Lawrenson: Moonrise on the Rape of Hastings Brighton & Hove Museums & Galleries.
If you look at the catalogue entry above, you will note a jumble of letters after the name of each artist. Those letters are abbreviations for all the counties in Britain. The British readers of this site should have no trouble decoding them.
The thumbnail images in each county’s volume are displayed in alphabetical order of artists , as in the picture below…
Thumbnail images of art works Click this small picture to show the rest of the page, please.
This is the statement by the Public Catalogue Foundation website:
The aim of The Public Catalogue Foundation is to improve public access to these paintings by producing a series of affordable colour catalogues on a county-by-county basis.
These will later go online allowing the public free access to the works they own.
The benefits to the collections are considerable and include free digital images, improved records, an income stream for painting conservation and education, and improved publicity.
These benefits come at no cost to the collections, many of which face severe financial constraints.
TIP: When you visit the PCF site, click on the image at top left of every page of the site to enlarge the thumbnails. They change randomly on each visit.
Frederick Goodall: Sultan Hussan’s School in Cairo
Mark Gertler: Still Life With Self-Portrait
This project has a little while to go before it is complete, and while each volume is good value regarding the relevant county’s pictures and their locations, it will require a deep pocket to acquire the whole set of nearly 50 counties, especially if you opt for the hardback versions.
Philip Le Bas: Brighton Street Musicians
Unknown: Hastings Fishermen’s Museum Presentation of Golden Winkle To Winston Churchill, 1956
You can’t help wondering what became of that Golden Winkle.
The best news is the latest. The PCF is teaming up with the BBC to host an online archive of all the images it has discovered in a new website called “Your Paintings”.
The final icing on the cake is that the PCF will now include the Government Art Collection whose dim web performance I was moaning about at the top of this post. Ah… Joy! – Mind you, you’ll have to wait until 2012 for the online collection to be completed.
Enjoy the Public Catalogue Foundation’s very comprehensive website here.
All they need to work on now is that snappy name….